Blog Written by Joe Pizziferri (@_joepiz):
Before the ink even dried on the newest television contract, the handwringing began over the unfair advantage Premier League teams will have over their rivals in Europe across the English Channel. Clubs relegated to the Championship could earn prize money on par with the actual champions of Serie A. Mid-table squads will be able to outbid all except the biggest giants (Real, Barça, Bayern, etc.) for the worlds' top talent. A new age will be born where the lucrative contracts English teams are able to provide, thanks to these television riches, might make playing anywhere else undesirable for elite players. The cycle begins where Europe's other top flight's become unattractive and even more money is poured into EPL media rights, only to further the divide by an even larger magnitude. All of this seemed to be confirmed when Crystal Palace of all clubs made a legitimate approach for Belgian star Michy Batshuayi, who ultimately signed with Chelsea.
All of the above of course is the worst-case scenario for La Liga, Bundesliga, and Serie A. However, it does not take into account there are many media companies competing for a shrinking pool of content. With the need to justify increases in carriage fees paid by cable/satellite companies, they need more live events since sports are one of the few partly immune to ad skipping. The EPL set a new market level with the contract starting this season. When the other leagues come up for re-negotiation, should we expect to see large increases from current levels? Those companies who don't win the EPL bidding war could be tempted to allocate larger resources in other locales, as not to be left with a soccer void in their schedules. In turn, while there will still be a premium paid to the English clubs vs. their Spanish/German/Italian rivals, the discrepancy may not be as jarring.
When this time comes, Serie A becomes a very attractive option. Although many casual observers see Serie A as dominated by Juventus, those who watch know differently. Napoli and Roma, especially after the return of Spalletti as the man in charge for the Giallorossi, are pure joy to watch. Small sample size for AC Milan, but during the preseason they look to have a more fluid style of play under Montella than at any point over the past few disappointing campaigns. Inter could make a similar leap in watch-ability under new head coach De Boer since we all know the talent is there on the field. Fiorentina is also always one of the more entertaining Serie A clubs. Add Sassuolo to the mix ('Sassy-olo" as dubbed by Ray Hudson), you have a minimum of seven clubs who could draw interest from the less than die-hard supporters, which is vital to increased ratings.
Look at just one market for how this might unfold. NBC's massive success has shown the market exists in the United States to justify paying large fees for soccer. Those who were outbid (or didn't even bid) for the Premier League could look to make their own splash in the world of international soccer. European games fill the morning and early afternoon void that any smart media company would be foolish not to exploit. Yes, Fox is tied to the Bundesliga until 2020, but this did not preclude them from making a failed bid for the newest EPL contract. In this vain, not out of the question they could look to bring Serie A back in their fold as was the case with the now defunct "Fox Soccer Channel". While there may be scheduling overlap between Italy and Germany, Fox has enough distribution options to make it work. In addition to Fox Sports 1 and 2, FX and FXX could be options when the aforementioned channels are occupied with other events. ESPN has to be mentioned as well, but they have heavy scheduling commitments in the fall/winter/spring for other sports that may preclude them from making a financially viable offer, as soccer would be an afterthought.
So in addition to beIN Sports (current USA rights holder) and Fox, who could emerge in the United States to cause escalating fees? CBS Sports Network jumps out immediately. They currently have nothing to note aside from second tier college football and basketball, nothing viewers are exactly flocking to watch. This leaves them with ample room to make Serie A the centerpiece of their weekends, much like NBC has done with EPL. With proper marketing and promotion, Italian soccer could be a ratings bonanza compared to their current Saturday and Sunday morning/afternoon offerings, and give them an identity sorely lacking at the moment.
Remember that this is for U.S. only. Extrapolate similar scenarios worldwide and it isn't hard to foresee Serie A (La Liga, Bundesliga & Ligue 1 as well) closing the current gap with the Premier League. In the end, all the doom and gloom about the impeding English hegemony might look more overwrought than "Brexit" implications.